Our school group went on a great field trip this month to the groves of the Temecula Olive Oil Company. I had visited their store in Old Town Temecula and purchased olive oil there, but I had no idea just how fascinating a trip it would be. We were met at the grove by one of the owners, Tom. Tom gave us a quick history of the olive trees in California and then took us out to the groves to explain more about the trees and the process of growing, grafting, and harvesting the olives.
One of the stories the kids are still talking about was about a man who came into the store and told them how he processed olives…for eating, not for oil. I’m sure you realize, olives are extremely bitter and must go through some sort of process to make them edible. One method is just to soak them in water, rinse and repeat, over, and over, and over again. Well, this gentleman accomplished this by putting his olives in a mesh bag in the tank of his toilet for a month. The water there is clean, and it gets replaced regularly. Needless to say, the kids were intrigued.
Next we went into the pressing shed, not sure if that is exactly what it was called, but close enough. There we learned about the process of getting the oil from the olives and how all parts of the process are then used on the ranch. The first, gentle press produces the consumable olive oil. The next step, separating the olive oil from the water that is present, produces water that is then used as an herbicide on the ranch. Next the olives are put through a harder press that produces more oil that is used for bath products and to fuel the tractor and truck. Lastly, what is left is mulch. Talk about not wasting anything!
Now, I’m greatly simplifying what we learned, which was really fascinating…but the bottom line is, you should buy California olive oil. When olive oil is grown for the markets in Europe it has to meet stringent requirements…the oil that is rejected is then sent to Italy where it is repackaged, sometimes cut with canola oil, and shipped to the U.S. This oil, as an import, is not subject to the quality controls it would have to meet in Europe. We are getting the reject, sometimes rancid oils. (I sound like a commercial…lol)
However, olive oil grown in California has to meet the same, if not more stringent guidelines. To prove that what we are used to is not the same quality as what is sold by California growers, we were able to do a tasting. Yep, it’s true. The name brand from the market smelled remarkably like playdough, and the other olive oil had a fruity smell. The kids were champs about tasting a variety of oils.
After being convinced of the superiority of their olive oil we headed into Old Town Temecula to visit their store.
It was a fun, educational day.
If you want to check out their oils yourself you can head into either the store in Temecula or San Diego…or go to their website.